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The Laws of Simplicity

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The Laws of Simplicity

MIT Press,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Learn from the iPod: Leave out everything but the essentials.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable
  • Well Structured
  • Concrete Examples


The poet William Wordsworth once wrote, “The world is too much with us.” If this was true in the bucolic 18th and 19th centuries when Wordsworth lived, it is even more true today, when every gadget comes with an incomprehensible 100-page instruction manual. Thus, simplifying people’s lives with your products and services is a surefire path to business success; it will endear you to your customers forever. In this aphoristic little book, graphic designer John Maeda has distilled all he knows about simplicity into 10 laws and three key ideas. He sprinkles mnemonics, icons and graphics throughout, which you may enjoy if you’re a visual learner or find baffling if you’re not. If you really like the icons, you can download them from the Web site Maeda put together to complement the book. getAbstract recommends this work particularly to marketing people, product designers and technical writers. Maybe some day your mother won’t have to call you every time she wants to record Jeopardy.


Get Simple

In a complex and confusing world, businesses that develop high quality, easy-to-use products are on the fast track for success and big profits. Consider the popularity of the Apple iPod. This innovative, elegant product does not do as much as other digital music players and it’s much more expensive. Yet people across the globe are paying Apple’s premium prices. Similarly, Google, the highly successful Internet search engine, offers the most basic interface but delivers power.

Simplicity sends a powerful sales message. Companies and organizations are eliminating complexity from their internal and external operations. Follow these 10 laws to simplify and succeed.

1st Law: “Reduce”

Reduce functionality. A typical television remote can do everything but drive your TV to the supermarket. However, hardly anyone uses all those buttons. Most of the remote’s functionality is unnecessary. Instead, offer consumers the features they need, but no more than that. Follow the “SHE” process:

  • Shrink – Make powerful equipment less intimidating and more appealing by downsizing it. Small, light gadgets are chic and desirable.
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About the Author

John Maeda is a computer scientist, visual artist, graphic designer and professor of media arts and sciences at MIT. He has received many design awards.

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    R. T. 3 years ago
    Great summary of a book that conveys timeless design principles. I already own the book, but this summary is useful in its own right.

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